Tag: Cattle shade

A Shade Haven and a 12th Century Abbey

Our European distributorMan@Machine shares a customer’s insight on grazing with a SH1200 Shade Haven mobile shade system at an organic farm near Leuven, Belgium.

Article written by Rosa de Nooijer

In the outskirts of Leuven, Belgium, stands an Abbey that was built in 1129. Today, in 2023, the land surrounding the ‘Abdij van Park’ is used by a cooperative of farmers. The meadows are grazed by their cattle, and the fertile soil is used to grow potatoes, cereals, vegetables, and fruit. Passing by on a summer day, you might spot the cows ruminating in the shade provided by the Shade Haven that farmer Ine Craenhals got for them. We asked Ine some questions about the role of the Shade Haven on the farm.

Q: Can you tell us about yourself and your farm?
Ine: “We are BoerEnCompagnie, a mixed, organic farm near Leuven. The farming cooperative is made up of different partners, such as the farmers, active participants, and a board. We run the farm as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where those with an annual subscription can come and harvest the vegetables and fruit that we grow. Additionally, there are different subscriptions to packages that include dairy, meat, cereals (and flour), potatoes and bread.

I joined BoerEnCompagnie as a partner in 2018. That is also when we started milking the herd as well as processing the milk. We have a herd of 15 dairy cows. The calves spend a minimum of three months with their mothers. We process all the milk into various products that are combined into packages that customers can subscribe to. We also sell all the meat ourselves.”

Q: Why did you start looking for a shade structure for your animals?
Ine: I saw that our cows were having a hard time on hot days. Our farm is located on the grounds of the old Abbey. The surrounding landscape is protected, so planting trees is not possible everywhere. We decided to plant as many as we were allowed to because they play an important role when it comes to supplying minerals. Even though we would have loved to plant more trees, we also knew that they would take a long time to grow large enough to protect the herd. That is when we started looking for a mobile shade structure. Now, I am convinced that a mobile shade spot has many advantages over a tree because you can influence where in the meadow the animals spend their time. Otherwise, in warm weather they would always under ‘that one tree’, which means that too much fertilizer falls in one place. This results in the grass no longer growing and so on. We also work with rotational grazing and without a Shade Haven we always had to give them access to the same part of the pasture on hot days. But… those warm days turned into warm periods, so we ran into problems with food. We also worked with a temporary fence in a shady spot, but we were not allowed to turn it into a permanent pasture. And that temporary fence requires a lot of work. Not just that, but with this shady spot the same rule applies: the manure always falls in the same place.

Q: What are the benefits of the Shade Haven?
Ine: “The fact that you can spread the manure and always allow the shade to go with the herd. The Shade Haven is incredibly user-friendly! It is so easy to fold and unfold. I even enjoy it. The structure is very robust: nothing has broken yet, even when the wind blows a little harder. Of course, it is important to keep an eye on the wind, but it can handle quite windy days. The good thing is that, when I do close it, the cows no longer need it because the wind cools down enough.”

Q: Are there also negatives? If so, have you found solutions for that?
Ine: “You need a tractor or something similar to move the Shade Haven. We don’t always have one right next to the meadow. I have not found a permanent solution for it yet. Though I have been thinking that maybe I would want to train a cow to pull it. I think that for us it is a matter of better organizing the grazing system so we can keep up with the work we are already doing anyways. But I try to keep in mind that we have only been milking for 6 years, so we are still learning a lot.”

Q: Have you seen a difference in the behavior of the herd since you have the Shade Haven?
Ine: “They love the Shade Haven. They walk there -even when they have fresh grass- to rub themselves on the brushes and of course to cool down (not just in the shade, but also in the breeze due to the lower temperature). They really get through the hot days better than before.”

Q: Why would you recommend others to also purchase a Shade Haven?
Ine: “It’s so easy to use, there is no maintenance, and it is well made. You will have no more worries. The animals feel much better and they continue to give good milk on hot days.”

Q: How do other farmers and people who visit the farm react to the shade haven?
Ine: “The reactions are always very positive, and people are curious about it. The price of the Shade Haven scares some people away. Even though I understand that, you have to look at it as an investment, just like a like a tractor or a good milking machine. We were fortunate that we could count on support from the Abbey. Otherwise we would never have been able to buy this because we were only just beginning. Now that we have one, I wouldn’t want to miss it ever again. Talking about money, it is important to mention that planting and replanting trees to protect livestock also costs a lot of money, which is often forgotten. Finally, I think farmers can also look at subsidies to make such investments (in Flanders, for example, the VLIF).”

Q: What is your future dream for keeping animals on farms/for the animals on your farm?
Ine: “I would like to focus more on the grazing on our farm and get better at it. There’s nothing more fun than being among the cows in the meadow and setting up the fences for the next few days. This way I hope to be able to get more milk from grazing. As long as the cows are grazing happily, I am happy as well.

We want to thank Ine for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer our questions.

Man@Machine is a European importer of the Shade Haven. European farmers interested in adding mobile shade should contact info@manatmachine.com or by calling +31644428391

Regenerative Agriculture is Trending

By Vince Hundt

Being a seventy-year-old Wisconsin farmer, trending is not a word that I use very often. For most of my life, a “trend” was a noun, generally about hairstyles and the length of skirts, but it has recently become a verb. That’s life: the language changes, people change, the climate changes, agricultural practices change. We wake up one morning and the world is a different place.

Bad trending

When I was born in 1951, there were 168,000 dairy farms in Wisconsin, and they were essentially all “organic” and almost all of them depended on grazing for a good part of their forage. Wisconsin was covered by a lot of small farms with grass and hay and clean water. Today Wisconsin has 6,500 dairy farms, only a few hundred of them are organic and those few are pretty much the only ones that do any grazing at all. Not by coincidence, during that same time period Wisconsin saw its lakes, rivers, and groundwater go from friendly, clean, clear, and drinkable to darkly poisoned with nitrates, phosphorus, and a godawful assortment of herbicides, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals.

Good trending

Regenerative agriculture is about cover crops, rotations, and diversity, but first and foremost it is about bringing back animals, grass, and grazing. The only agricultural practice that solves all the problems of polluted water runoff, groundwater contamination, soil erosion and depletion (while at the same time sequestering new carbon in the soil) is rotational grazing. Rotational grazing, with the simple mantra of move the water, move the fence, move the shade, is regenerating the health of our soils, water, animals, rural communities, and the health of our citizens. A recent Wall Street Journal article (excerpt below) indicates this idea is really sinking in deep. Personally, I am rotationally grazing and trending hopeful on the future.

Wall Street Journal. April 1, 2022

“This is not a boutique trend. In 2019, General Mills announced a commitment to advancing  regenerative practices on 1 million acres of farmland by 2030; PepsiCo followed suit in 2021 with a pledge to do the same across its entire 7-million-acre agricultural footprint. Nestle SA said recently that it would invest $1.3 billion over the next five years to help farmers transition to regenerative practices.”

Tennessee Grazing with Shade

Click photo above to view video

Retirement goals often include travel, boats or spending more time on the golf course. John Abe Teague’s retirement dream was to farm and raise cattle, and that’s what he did. In 2014 Teague started with 13 bred Angus cows at his farm in Jonesborough, Tennessee, but with limited trees he was challenged to supply the shade his cattle needed. Then in 2015 he purchased a Shade Haven mobile shade system.

“It has allowed me to do what I do—have cattle and do rotational grazing,” says Teague. “I could not farm without the Shade Haven. It’s that simple.”

For rotational grazing, Teague knew he needed grass, water, fencing and shade. After failed attempts to construct his own shade solution, he found what he needed at Powell Farms, which utilizes nine Shade Havens in its grazing plan. “I was sold the minute I saw it,” says Teague. “I picked the phone up and ordered one.”

Teague moves his cattle and the Shade Haven daily across 15 acres established in five-acre paddocks, which he divides into 8 to 10 smaller paddocks with electric fence on reels. When the cattle at Mire Creek Farm see the Shade Haven, they know it means fresh green grass and a cool place to lie down. “I cluck at them and move the Shade Haven and they follow me,” says Teague. “I tell people, they would follow me all the way to town if I wanted them to. They love the Shade Haven.”

An advocate for rotational grazing, Teague welcomes groups to his farm who want to learn about it. He knows the benefits of managed grazing and mobile shade for animal health, production and profitability. “The bottom line is they get shade when they need it. It gets 95 degrees here in summertime and black-hided cows can’t stand it. They’ve got to have shade,” says Teague, who also appreciates the ability to control where nutrients are going in his pasture. “I find weak spots in the field and place the Shade Haven there, so it gets manure and then I move it. That helps on the fertilizer bill, and it helps on the quality of grass.”

Since a health condition requires him to eat a lot of protein, Teague consumes a portion of his shade-raised, grassfed beef and sells the rest. He’s still fine-tuning his grazing operation and his pastures. “I’ve managed to get one cow for every one acre with rotational grazing,” he adds.

Building his registered Angus cow/calf herd, improving his pastures, and moving the cattle are all part of typical day for Teague, and he wouldn’t want it any other way. “I’m 69. I’ve had a good life. This is my retirement, and the Shade Haven makes it possible.”

Shade Haven is proud to be part of John Abe Teague’s grazing operation. Thanks to John Abe for representing Shade Haven at grazing and beef cattle events around northeast Tennessee.

Mobile Shade at Work on Ohio Ranch

Lori and Steve Roseberry are in the business of raising reined cow horses and enjoy showing cutting horses. This year they purchased a Shade Haven mobile shade system to reduce heat stress and improve weight gain for the stocker cattle they run on their farm, Little Roc Ranch, in Circleville, Ohio.

The Roseberry’s cross-bred Angus stockers provide additional revenue and play a role in training the horses. The couple currently has 12 horses on their ranch and nine others– including foals and embryo mares – in Texas.

“We have a total of 48 acres here where we live. We run between 20 and 25 head of cattle here and another 76 or so on another place,” explains Steve Roseberry. “The reason we got the Shade Haven was because none of the pastures here have trees.”

A long-time rotational grazier, Roseberry moves the cattle through six paddocks. “In early spring, when I first bring on the stockers, I move them every day or every couple of days and then as we get further into the summer, I slow that down,” he explains.

Observing some heat stress in his cattle, Roseberry considered adding permanent shade shelters. “But I didn’t want to put permanent structures in every pasture, so that is why we opted to get the Shade Haven.”

Roseberry uses a tractor to move the Shade Haven with the cattle. “I have 16-foot gates in most of the pastures, so I don’t even have to fold it up to move it. If I do have to, the design of the Shade Haven is very efficient as far as being able to fold it and open it back up.”

After just one grazing season with the Shade Haven, Roseberry says he’s already noticed a difference in terms of weight gain. And he’s done the math on the benefits of mobile shade in his pasture. “It has certainly reduced the heat stress on the stock,” he says, “It will probably pay for itself in three or four years.”